When you go to a tradeshow or seminar and strike up a conversation, how do you know that the interaction produces business? Maybe it did. Just because you can’t instantly chalk up a sale that doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impression that will pay off.

The same is true for social media.

Social Media Is About Dialogs that Influence
LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and blogs are dialogs—just like the conversations you have at industry events. They’re an opportunity for you to influence thinking and perspective, and to bring new ideas and new solutions to the table. Which is why social media has just as much a place in a manufacturer’s marketing plan and budget as tradeshows. Maybe more because, unlike tradeshows, social media is an ongoing opportunity that continually attracts a target audience.

The numbers back this up.

According to a recent ThomasNet Industrial Purchasing Barometer (IPB) study, fifty-six percent of industrial buyers recommend that suppliers be available through social media if they want to do business with them. One buyer says, “Social media has made it easier to see more about the services and tools available and helps us make our purchases.” Nearly half (46%) of buyers who responded advise suppliers to use LinkedIn, while 39% would recommend using industry-specific forums. Matt Eggemeyer, VP and COO for Keats Manufacturing, puts it this way, “This is where new generations are going; if you’re not there, you won’t be seen.”

When all is said and done, social media is nothing more than another marketing tool that, when used efficiently and thoughtfully, has the power to build brand awareness and reputations. And effectiveness depends on having a strategy—one that, oddly enough, looks and sounds much like a strategy for any other marketing channel. It has to answer three basic questions.

  • What’s the business challenge or opportunity I need to solve?
  • What are the primary audiences I want to reach?
  • What is the messaging platform/value proposition/positioning statement I want to reinforce?

An Example
Take Etratech, which develops and produces electronic controls for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) around the world. The company’s wireless technologies are found in everything from elevator doors to irrigation systems.

Bill Burrows, Business Development Manager, wanted to accelerate sales by increasing Etratech’s name recognition. The company saw new opportunities in sectors ranging from kitchen appliances to aerospace. But in a worldwide market with many competitors, that recognition was harder than ever to achieve. As Bill noted, manufacturers, unlike consumer brands, don’t usually achieve household-name status.

Etratech had built its business on word of mouth referrals, and Bill felt that a social media program would help deliver those referrals in today’s digital age. He wanted Etratech to become the “go-to guys” within the electronic controls market. He envisioned a program where he could reach engineers and purchasing professionals in target industries, contributing a unique point of view on “all things wireless.”

ThomasNet helped Etratech develop a comprehensive social media program that includes a blog, a YouTube channel, and regular postings on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Through the program, Etratech began commenting on everything from the reinvention of the microwave to space elevators of the future.

As Etratech became more engaged with social media, amazing things started to happen. The program began generating additional web traffic and new sources of leads. When prospects called, Bill didn’t have to go through a “courting stage.” These potential customers had already learned about Etratech through social media and the website, and that shaved three to six months off an already-long sales cycle. As a result of all this activity, Etratech has even made new sales.

Make the Commitment to Be Social
An effective social media program like Etratech’s takes commitment. Especially in the manufacturing space, where there are some unique challenges. Namely, you’re engaging very intelligent engineers and technology folks who only respect those who deliver useful expertise in their niche markets. That’s why whoever creates your content and becomes your social media representative has to be deeply engaged in your industry, and able to contribute to the conversation with specific, knowledgeable information. In addition to the right content, the other must-have is frequency. It’s important that you have a social media calendar—just like you would develop a media calendar for paid media or an editorial calendar for public relations. Manufacturers should also monitor conversations about their company, or about issues/trends where they have a unique perspective to contribute.

Indeed, social media programs need constant care and feeding, and many manufacturers lack the resources and time to give them dedicated attention. ThomasNet developed its Social Media Program to help manufacturers make this commitment. A staff of industrial communications specialists handles everything from strategy sessions and goal-setting, to writing and posting unique content for each company. That includes providing a blog and publishing on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

However you choose to handle social media, make sure you are fully engaged, and the results will follow. The proof is in the stories of Etratech and others, who are finding that conversations through social media are opening doors for them every day.

Philip Paranicas, Director of New Product Development
Phil thrives in the fast-paced world of digital media where ThomasNet is serving a new generation of B2B professionals by helping their businesses connect, collaborate and grow.

As the Director of New Product Development, Mr. Paranicas is responsible for creating new products and services that support the ThomasNet’s mission to help bring buyers together with sellers. His team is focused on innovating Internet-based solutions to address real-life business challenges.

Completely at home in this new role, Mr. Paranicas brings 20+ years of expertise in both traditional and online B2B marketing, quality management and communications. Prior to this, Mr. Paranicas spearheaded ThomasNet’s Digital Media Team which develops effective social media, SEO and email marketing programs for the manufacturing community. He is a well-known speaker and author on all areas of digital media.

Before joining ThomasNet, Mr. Paranicas was president of a leading digital marketing agency, specializing in website design, SEO and social media. Mr. Paranicas has a M.B.A. in Quality Management, and a B.A. in Management and Communications from Dowling College, Oakdale, NY.

ThomasNet® is an information and technology company that connects manufacturing and industrial buyers and sellers. Buyers and engineers worldwide rely on ThomasNet.com®, industry’s leading free platform for industrial/commercial product sourcing and supplier discovery. ThomasNet News® delivers industrial news and trends via a family of online publications and newsletters. We enable suppliers to leverage their product content to increase sales, using our proprietary Navigator Platform technology. We also offer a suite of Internet and digital media solutions, from websites with product catalogs, to SEO/SEM services, to social media. Our Enterprise Solutions offer suppliers the benefits of syndicating product data across systems and sales channels.


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